Qualities of an Extreme Pioneer Missionary – part 8

The obvious quality is that we are really taking Jesus Christ. We cannot be taking ourselves. This is why we need to spend several hours a day in our Gospels so that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. The unreached people groups of the world don’t need us, they need Jesus! So the more that we fill our heads full of the world’s missiology and theology the more we are taking those into the unreached people group we are going to.

What are some other qualities that we need to do extreme pioneer missionary work? We need an extreme attitude of perseverance. Missionary work is not a project you start, they are people who need Christ. This is not something that you can start and then decide halfway through that you just work cut out for it. If God is with you, you can do it. You have to remove your emotions and your desires and even the level of tiredness that you may feel and then press into Jesus Christ for strength. This isn’t a sprint or a 3-mile run. This is an endurance marathon. And so you need a stick to it attitude.

Pick yourself up, dust off the dirt and keep going

One thing I can say about missionary work is that you’re going to get knocked down over and over again. You’re going to have to pick yourself up, dust off the dirt, and keep going. I know this quality comes directly from God because I’ve been doing missionary work for over 25 years. And I can say with certainty that perseverance is directly from God. So if you haven’t spent your time in the Gospels and in the New Testament and of course in the rest of the Bible, you’re just not going to have this enduring perseverance. It comes from God. So in order to be on the mission field you’re going to need this directly from God.

3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

(NIV Romans 5:3-5)

This doesn’t mean however, that you’re going to get to the missionary field totally mature. It means that you’re just going to have to pick yourself up over and over again and press further into Christ just keep going. Do not wait to go to the mission field until you think you are totally mature. First of all, you don’t know when you finally get totally mature. (1 Corinthians 4:3) Secondly, your mind and the enemy will always tell you that you are immature. You are immature. But totally maturity is not a prerequisite of Christ to go. Look at the lives of the disciples. Peter was made an example by Jesus to help us see many of these things.

Faith is a quality of an extreme pioneer missionary

The other reason to take a deep dive into the Gospels is that faith comes through that time. Faith comes through hearing the words of Christ. (Romans 10:17) Faith is faith. But it is a quality that you need inside to be. You need to really believe the word of God. If you don’t really believe what Jesus says and you don’t really believe the Bible you will give up. Many Christians just don’t stick it out because they don’t read their Bibles. They lose faith and don’t persevere and eventually give up. In Matthew chapter 24 it says that in the last times the will be a great falling away from the faith and most of the Christian’s hearts will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12) So you need faith in God and in Jesus Christ.

I mention on this blog in one of the articles that medical work and social work are really not missionary work. They are missionary helpers. Missionaries make disciples. This may be a hard statement to many people but Jesus gave us the authority to heal, cast out evil spirits, and do signs and wonders. (Luke 9:1-2) These take faith. Many times you are going to need to exhibit the power of God so that the people will know that the Gospel is true. (Mark 16:20) You will be going into many places in the world dominated by years of spiritual strongholds of the enemy. So you are going to have to walk in and exercise your faith, and actually have the faith for people to be healed and delivered. This comes through our time in the word of God and prayer.

Move out of the way and let Jesus come through

Another quality of an extreme pioneer missionary is that basically, they don’t exist here. This is probably one of the hardest things for Christians to get a grasp on. It’s not that we don’t count, or that we don’t exist physically in this world. God loves us. It is that we are being an ambassador of Jesus Christ. He is literally living through us to the people we minister to. (2 Corinthians 5:20) This is why we’re told in the Gospels to become insignificant, to become slaves, (Matthew 20:26) that we are just unworthy servants. (Luke 17:10) (1 Corinthians 3:7) If we don’t focus on these things in our time of reading we’re going to be taking ourselves to the mission field.

We need to literally move out of the way so that Jesus can come through. So, a quality of an extreme pioneer missionary is that they just don’t pay much attention to themselves. This doesn’t mean that we need to over-exaggerate this concept and not sleep correctly, eat correctly, or keep ourselves in good physical condition. We just need to keep ourselves out of the picture and focus on Christ.

Jesus is very clear when he gives us three primary instructions to be able to follow him as a disciple. We must 1. deny ourselves, 2. take up a cross, 3. and follow him. If you look at these three instructions very closely in the Gospels (Matthew 16:24) you will find that this is really the basis for allowing us to be part of what God is doing in this world. So denying ourselves is first. If we can’t get over ourselves and move past our missionary training, and all the missiology and theology we have learned, and all the other books that we read to become missionaries, we just won’t be invisible in allowing Jesus to shine through. Go through the entire series on Christ’s leadership model.

My missionary pastor always taught us that denying ourselves in the original language is actually saying to forget ourselves. The apostle Paul even says that he doesn’t judge himself but he allows the Holy Spirit to judge him. If you keep looking at yourself all you will be doing is finding your faults or being impressed with yourself. Forget you. Deny yourself. The enemy will always want to continue and tell you that you’re not good enough, and tell you that you can’t do this. Or, he will want to tell you that you are good enough. You are not good enough. You will never be fully trained, or fully mature so keep your eyes on the one who you will be taking into darkness.

If you listen to the enemy you’re listening to yourself. Because you’re allowing the thoughts of the enemy to come into your mind and not the word of God. There’s a teaching out there that talks about knowing who you are in Christ. I’m not so convinced of this. We don’t need to know who we are in Christ, we need to know Christ! Christ is everything. Jesus Christ is a 1,000 story building. And we are all on the bottom floor prostrate laid out flat before him. I’m not for sure any of us really realize how high and majestic and Almighty and all-powerful Jesus Christ really is. But this isn’t important. He is all-powerful, almighty, and THE MESSIAH. You are not. Get your doubts and pride out of the way or you won’t be going anywhere. We need to become less, and he needs to become more. (John 3:30)

The joy of the Lord is your strength

I look around and many Christians talk about having joy. I don’t have total clarity on the true meaning of what joy is. But to me, joy is simply the strength of the Lord. When we get totally squashed, God comes through. It’s not necessarily a smile always on my face and a happy-go-lucky attitude and a chipper personality. I love the people around me who are like that all the time, but I personally find that when I’m walking in the middle of nowhere in a totally unreached area, it’s a serious deal. I cannot imagine that Jesus always had a smile on his face. I feel squashed and still somehow, have the strength to carry on. I’m not whistling and singing and smiling and joking and laughing and clapping and jumping. But I do have the strength to carry on and move forward. If I have faith and know that Christ Jesus is the one who’s actually walking forward, that’s joy. I’m just a servant being obedient to his words and doing what he told me to do. Joy is a sense of God’s fullness inside me. It’s not an emotion, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)

When I talk about joy, I don’t imagine the poster with the man jumping into the air with a open smile on his face. I imagine a frog that has been stepped on. When you get stepped on and get up again with renewed strength, this to me is joy. You can be squashed and still get up. Life is going to step on you. (John 15:18)

I took this image off this blog post (from Wiki Commons) and put it back on.

Emotions will get you only so far until you get squashed. Knowing that we are doing what we should be doing brings peace and joy/strength. Love is the highest of all and that too comes from him. You won’t be feeling love in total darkness but it will be there because he is there, not us. Many times you’re going to be tired and discouraged and so you’re going to need to know where to get that strength from. It’s called Joy. It’s not about a constant smile on your face or an upbeat attitude all the time. I know that Paul says many things, but he too was discouraged and squashed at times, but he kept going in the Lord. (2 Corinthians 4:9) I don’t find that being in a good mood has much to do with having joy. Joy is doing what you need to do despite your mood. But that’s me. Whatever joy is, this also comes directly from God. My missionary pastor also taught us that your mood is directly affected by how much sleep you have had. So you need to get sleep, and you need to understand how to rest in the Lord.

Getting rest physically and in the Lord

Having enough rest in our physical bodies and in our spirits is extremely important. There are times you cant get it, but get it while you can. We also have to rest in the Lord casting our cares on him because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7) We can’t go around carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Rest in the finished work of Jesus. We can’t do everything. We can only do so much in our own physical bodies. I was recently talking to one of the disciples that work with us, and he reminded me of how I taught him to drink a cup of tea. I don’t remember this, but I told him, “Make your cup of tea, go out and sit down under a tree, and just look off into nowhere.” Rest your mind. Many times when I’m sitting in a chair looking off into the mountains into the trees, this is when God speaks to me and strengthens me. I have gotten enough rest the night before, I’m not carrying around all the burdens of the problems of this day, and I’m just disengaging my mind and relaxing and allowing the Lord to minister to me, heal me, give me strength, and speak to me.

Taking time to hear from the Lord

This is very difficult for most Christians. They just cannot disengage their mind from spinning its wheels. They’re constantly thinking, constantly analyzing, constantly looking at themselves, constantly wondering what’s going to happen in the future, or worse, thinking about what they did wrong in the past. (Philippians 3:13-14) We have to learn how to disengage ourselves. Deny your right to mope and complain. If you forget about yourself and allow God to minister and speak to you, you won’t be depressed. This falls into the action of denying ourselves. We’ve got to take the time after we have deep dives into the Gospels, and just disengage ourselves and our brains and listen and allow God to speak to us. To me, this is really what prayer is. Most people think that prayer is 75% of us communicating to God, and 25% God communicating to us. But in all practicality, most Christian prayer is 95% communicating toward God, and maybe 5% of God communicating back to us. That is not prayer, and we are not obeying Jesus’s commands when he teaches us how to pray. This will be covered in-depth in the next article.

Boldness and encouragement come from the Lord

Another quality of an extreme pioneer missionary is that they are bold and courageous. But you can already guess where I’m going to tell you that these things come from. They all come from God. This is why God gets all the glory. We don’t get the glory here. There will be a time when God rewards us. But right now, we need to lay low, deny ourselves, make sure that we are disengaged from this endeavor, and let God be God. You will find that you do not have the internal courage to do missionary work in extreme pioneer situations. This is where God has to come in. Many times I have been afraid for my life, especially when the people are telling me to my face that they’re going to kill me. However, this is when I let go, and I allow God to be God. Courage is not doing fearful and difficult things. Courage is doing the fearful and difficult things despite how much fear is in us. If you let go of your fear, God brings peace. You won’t be able to let go of fear and doubts if your mind is engaged. (Matthew 14:22-33) This is why you need to move out of the way and forget yourself. You are not the important one here. God is going to protect you. I’ve been in many difficult and dangerous situations and God has always protected me. I’m still here writing this to you.

Our missionary work is not for our own personal blogging journal. This is not about us. We have to understand that God resists the proud. (James 4:6) But what does God do, he gives grace to the humble. And you are going to need a lot of grace to go into totally unreached people groups. What is grace? Grace is God doing what he does despite all of our inconsistencies, errors, and faults. That’s grace. And I guess you could say that this is another quality that extreme pioneer missionary needs, but I think it is obvious that we need to be in the grace and love of God.

Extreme Pioneer missionaries need focus

I’ve been around many field missionaries over the years, and what I see is a very distracted group of people. I would have to say that most of those distractions come because they’re trying to live a normal life in the middle of nowhere. They’re very focused on themselves and on their families, and I know that family is important but if you take your family to the mission field, they too should have also denied themselves and taken up the cross. This is why the New Testament is very clear about breaking bonds and ties with family in order to extend the kingdom of God. It’s also why Jesus chose men and actually took them away from their families and their children to do the work of God. (Matthew 10:37 and Matthew 19:27)

But today it’s very prevalent that missionaries take their entire families with them to the mission field. I don’t have a problem with this. It’s not really a New Testament model no matter how hard we want it to be. I’m sure this sounds extreme in many Christian circles. Read your Gospels. But actually taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ into an extremely dangerous and remote situation is not the best place to take your family. So many distractions come because the missionaries are trying to do family in the middle of nowhere. So, where is the first place that the enemy is going to come at two people trying to extend the Gospel into a totally unreached people group? He’s going to go straight at the children. Not only in the Gospels, but in earlier times of missionary history where the men did not take their wives or their children to the mission field. We have forgotten these old ways. Nevertheless, take your children and take your wife to the mission field. But make sure that they understand that you’re going to have to live focused on the task, and they are going to have to come alongside what God is doing in your unreached people group. I go into this in-depth in the Missiology of Christ. Most of this section comes from a deep study of the New Testament. It comes straight out of the Gospels where Jesus is establishing the protocols which are necessary to continue to extend the message throughout the world. It’s not about us, it’s not about our wives, it’s not about our children. It’s about the extension of the Gospel throughout the world to all of those men, and their wives, and their children who do not have any access to Jesus Christ’s message. I am not saying that you should not spend time with your families if they are on the mission field. But most are more focused on the family than on the mission. If you have a deep conviction to be a missionary, your family will have to have the same or just understand, or you will eventually be going back to your country of origin.

Missionaries shouldn’t ware too many hats

Another area where most missionaries in the field are very distracted is in all of the things that they have to do to be agency-sent missionaries in the field. They have to wear many hats. Much of this has to do with the protocols of their mission agency and I cover this in the Missiology of Christ. They’re trying to do all kinds of different ministries. And basically the only thing Jesus is telling us to do is make disciples. As this requires language learning in translation to some degree, of course, we need to focus on those. If we can’t speak the people’s language correctly, we can’t disciple them. And if somehow we don’t record or write down the Gospel message into their language, we can’t get it recorded into audio so that they can listen to it. We would have to do all the personal discipleship ourselves directly to the people through our own mouths (just like they did before modern technology). This isn’t really a bad deal. If you’re going to learn their language and you are going to disciple them, your mouth becomes the MP3 player. And thus, you avoid the need for MP3 players in the middle of nowhere. If you can, it is not a bad idea to write these things down and get them into an audio recording so that more people can listen to the words of Jesus. We teach these things to our missionary candidates because we have the technology to do these things. But, if you find that you cant get these things, that you can’t even get a solar-powered MP3 player, then you need to write the things down so that you too can be reading the word of God to them. Your mouth becomes the MP3 player where there is no access to technology or the finances for it.

Missionaries keep their focus on the unreached people, not on back home

Most missionaries are very distracted communicating back home. Progress reports, updates, surveys, prayer letters, databases, surveys, etc. It’s like the missionaries are constantly turning their heads to look back towards home because of all the requirements and all the protocols that they were given that they need to do to keep up communications with the people back home.

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

(NIV Luke 9:62)

Jesus tells us to put our hands to the plow and don’t look back, anyone who looks back is not worthy to be his disciple. What does he mean here? What is Jesus trying to teach us? These things are important when we are trying to get a breakthrough in an extreme pioneer missionary effort. So, don’t lose focus. Remember what you are here for. You’re not here to focus on things that people would do back home. Your family will understand. And even if they don’t completely understand in this life, they will in the eternal life. I suggest to all new missionary candidates that they do not get married and that they do, to not have children. Much of the need to be looking back has to do with family. We are trying to give the same life on the mission field that our wives and children would have had back home. Being married and having children can be different, if you focus, but normally it really slows down the missionary work in the field. This verse below is hardly ever spoken of. Read it carefully.

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

(NIV 1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

If you want to get married and have a normal life and have children all the good and wonderful things that come with having children, stay home and do that. If you want your children to have a good education, not go to the mission field. There is no time for both. Don’t try to do these things in an extreme totally unreached situation. You read what Paul says, that if we have these things we should live as though we do not. This is one of the verses in the New Testament that is blacked out by most Christians. But, these verses that we see here and in many other places are not for people who are going to live a normal life by staying at home in their hometowns and having children, and all the wonderful things that come with having children. These are the verses that go over our heads are only for those who are going to extend the kingdom of God into the uttermost parts of the world.

The missionaries disciples need to be making other disciples, and so on

Missionaries need to have a clear focus on what the goal is. They need to stay focused on that goal. The goal is to make disciples and to teach those disciples to teach others all of the things that they have learned. (Matthew 28:20) This is also an overlooked Bible verse that many don’t get. They go to the mission field and they make disciples and it ends there. They are not teaching their disciples to make other disciples. And therefore they are not completely obeying the command of Christ he left for us. We have to teach our disciples to obey everything that Jesus has taught us, and this includes making other disciples. If your disciples are not making disciples you have not obeyed the great commission of Jesus Christ. So you have to decide. If you take your wife and your children to the mission field you’re going to have to focus on the goal. Your wife is going to have to focus on the goal. Your children are going to have to focus on the goal. Just because your children were born into this world does not give them the right to deviate you from Christ’s commands. They too have to live under Christ’s commands.

Your children will be much better missionaries than you are if they live like the other children

It will be the best thing for your children to understand who Jesus Christ is and what his purposes in this world are. You will think that you have to give your children the same things that all the children back home have. This is not true. Your children will have a much fuller life understanding and living the purposes of God in this world, and they will be able to get involved in them as well. You are doing your children a favor by taking them to the mission field. You will have to spend time with your family of course. This is obvious. But it will be in a very different way than if you lived in your country of origin in your local congregation. You may not have the opportunity to give your children the level of schooling that all the other children get. They will get schooling from the hill tribes. They will get their schooling from the jungle tribes. They will become like the children that are in the people group. This will be a great advantage to you as a missionary in the field because the people in the hill tribes and in the jungle tribes will see that you are people just like they are and that your children are just like their children are. Your children will not get the college education that you feel that they need. But they will end up being the best field missionaries in the world. They will be way better missionaries than you ever were because they learned the culture and the language from a young age. So you can have a different attitude about seeing your children grow up without any education. Look at the present educational system. Would this be such a bad thing? What you need to understand is that because your children — unknowingly perhaps — denied themselves, took up across, and followed Jesus, they will end up being more effectively involved in Christ’s commission. Stay focused!

Extreme Pioneer missionaries have a no return policy

I hope that you can begin to see many of the reasons why it is not a good idea for extreme pioneer missionaries to return home. Coming home every couple of years or every four years is just not a good idea any way you look at it. If you go home, you and your wife and your children get reconnected into a group of people who really don’t understand what you’re doing. You also bring your children back into an environment that is so different from what they are living will affect them. You are also coming back home because of this perceived need of having a certain level of finances on the mission field which is also a discouragement if you can’t raise those finances again. You also take the chance that you’re not going to get your missionary (or whatever) visa to get back into the field. If you go with a no return policy you can go with one visa and stay.

The main problem of returning home is that you’re leaving spiritual infants on the field for a long period of time, and the wolves are going to come in and devour them. The entire spiritual dynamic of what God is doing through you in the mission field is going to change over the period of that year. You can pray and pray and still you will go back to a very different situation. I know of cases where missionaries have returned and the entire group of believers went cold. Sometimes even the people group themselves don’t want you coming back into their villages.

I lived in a remote people group who did not see time linearly. What I also did not know, because I had not been there long enough to learn that part of their culture, was that when you say “goodbye,” you’re never coming back in their worldview. I returned only a few months later they had forgotten who I was. Many of the doors that the Lord opened for me were closed and many of the things that I had learned had been forgotten as well. I had forgotten important aspects of the language. Not ever going back to your country of origin has so many profound spiritual and practical implications that I don think we will ever understand how deep they go. Jesus understands how deep these implications go.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

(NIV Acts 1:8-9)

Jesus is a practical missionary. This is why he told us to put our hands on the plow and don’t look back. He told the disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth. This verse is greatly misunderstood by the Christian missionary because it’s basically telling them that they are to keep going, and going, and going. Also, the time that Jesus tells them that they are going to have to die in this endeavor is also directly implying that they will not be going home. What some of the apostles did does not negate what they were told to do by Jesus. Their actions are for God to judge, not for us to accommodate our missiology or negate Jesus’s missiology around their actions. Do what Jesus says, not what the apostles did.

Get you into the Bible so that you can see these things for yourself. If you don’t spend that time looking at it with your own eyes, your mind will talk you out of it. Reading these articles is for you to get a quicker grasp on what it is you’re reading in the New Testament. You should be reading your Gospels way more than you read these articles (99% more). If you read your Gospels four hours a day and you take the time to read one article once in a while to help push you along a bit. Have your Bible open when you’re reading these articles. The Bible reading plan is found here.